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April 24, 2007

Top 10 Obstacles to Selling a Home

In David Letterman style, let’s list the top ten things that make a buyer say, “Let’s get out of here!!” when I am showing a house.

NUMBER TEN: DEAD BUGS LYING AROUND! 

That being said, I have to admit that not only have I sold properties with dead bugs lying around, but I have also bought them myself.  Often people will exterminate a home after moving furniture out and then put in new light carpet and put it on the market vacant.  After exterminating a home, dead bugs can appear for weeks afterward, and with no one living in the house, you find the dead spiders lying on the brand new light carpet.  “I said light, bright and airy NOT light, bright and buggy!”

NUMBER NINE: SKEEVY CREEPIES! 

You know, those things that make you just a tad nauseous.  Like when you open the shower curtain and there’s black gunk in the corners of the tub and along the caulk line, or in the grout spaces.  Or that thick, heavy layer of soap scum on the shower door.

NUMBER EIGHT: MAJOR FLOOR SQUEAKS! 

I once had a buyer who loved to stand on these and rock back and forth like he was playing the accordion.  If I were in another part of the house talking with his wife, he would rock back and forth until it annoyed us so much we had to acknowledge where the noise was coming from.  These are usually fixable.  If it is squeaking under a rug, there are screws to put in right through the rug to resecure the subfloor to the joist.  The screw has a “break off” head that is removed once the base of it is screwed in.

NUMBER SEVEN: THE NEIGHBOR! 

Good luck with that one.  I have found no cures for a neighbor’s dog who barks incessantly.  The neighbor with eight junk cars parked on his front lawn.  The neighbor who has eight buddies drinking beers out front and lining up the empty bottles on the shared fence.  It’s not a good sign when I’m showing a house, and the neighbor is whistling and saying “Hey Baby, whatcha doin’?”

NUMBER SIX: PILES OF DIRTY CLOTHES!

I saw an odd one recently.  The house was empty until I got upstairs into one of the bedrooms.  One of the main features on the flyer was “remodeled master bath.”  When I got up to the master bathroom, the new Jacuzzi tub was filled with dirty clothes, as was the floor of that bathroom and the closet and the bedroom.  Big piles of dirty clothes and towels.  Pretty weird for a vacant house.  Dirty clothes lying on chairs, on beds, on floors …once someone’s seen your dirty underwear, they don’t seem to be interested in buying your house.

NUMBER FIVE: BIG DOG BARKING! 

You ring the bell, and no one answers except the dog.  He’s barking and growling on the other side of the door as if he’s saying “Do you feel lucky today?”

NUMBER FOUR:  DIRTY ROOF! 

Huge piles of pine needles all over the roof or big mounds of moss growing on the roof and into the gutters.  Gutters jam full of pine needles.  If you live in one of those great places like Bridle Trails Bellevue with big tall pine trees everywhere, get out the blower and round up those pine needles!

NUMBER THREE:  BUYER STEPPED IN DOG POOP!

I know it’s been winter in Seattle and you haven’t been out in the yard for awhile.  In fact, it was raining so much you just opened the back door to let Fido do his business, instead of taking him out for a walk.  And you haven’t wanted to go out in the rain to clean up after him.  But nothing says, "I’m not buying this house!" like the would-be buyer stepping in mounds of dog poop in the yard.  Especially when you made him take his shoes off at the front door so he wouldn’t dirty your carpet, and now he’s got dog poop all over his socks and can’t put his shoes back on.

NUMBER TWO: PICTURES ON THE WALLS

Pictures, Pictures everywhere!  I know it looked great in that Pottery Barn catalog when they took a whole wall and covered it with all different sized pictures in black frames.  Long ones, tall ones, short ones and wide ones.  Do you know what people see when they look at these pictures?  The holes that will be left in the wall when you take them all with you when you move.

NUMBER ONE: ODORS! 

In my experience, this applies to all smells, both good and bad.  If you open the door and there is a strong smell of ANY kind, it is a problem.  That doesn’t just apply to pet odors and smoke or mustiness, but also bleach, pine cleaners, rose and floral scents, carpet fresheners or wall plug-in room fresheners.  I can only think of one time in 16 years where I had sold the house when I had to walk outside to get a gulp of fresh air after viewing each room.  If I feel like I am going to pass out before I make it up the stairs to the second floor, the buyers and I are usually out of there before making it through the entire house.  Often these homes are vacant, and the owners or listing agents haven’t been inside the house, since they installed  “plug-ins” in every single room outlet, to mask some other foul odors.

(Ardell Dellaloggia is a broker in Seattle, WA, and a popular RealTown and RainCity blogger. SearchingSeattleBlog, Rain City Guide, and Searching Seattle)

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